Scott was very familiar with the Look. He’d seen it on numerous students’ faces over the years. The Look was the one that said that something was troubling their teenage souls, and they wanted to talk, but weren’t sure whether to open up to a teacher.
Kitty had had the Look when she came into his office, ostensibly to talk about her college plans. Scott had discussed college options with her, recommending a few possibilities for her to look into. He had suggested that she make an appointment to talk to Charles Xavier, as well, about which schools would be a good fit. Scott had waited patiently. A couple of times Kitty had begun with a tentative “Mr. Summers?” as she nervously twirled her hair around her index finger, but retreated to more college application talk rather than tell him what was on her mind. She was thanking him now, and getting up to leave, so it was unlikely he’d find out what was bothering her today. She exited, closing the door after her.
Scott reached for the telephone, but before he could dial, Kitty was back, passing effortlessly through the closed door. “I’m sorry to bother you, Mr. Summers,” she said, breathlessly, “but there’s something I want to ask you. Are you... will you... are you and Dr. Grey getting back together?” Kitty stumbled over the words, and then looked at him expectantly.
Surprised, Scott didn’t answer at first. “I know it’s none of my business,” Kitty answered, but made no move to go.
“You’re right. It isn’t.” He smiled at her to try to make what he’d just said sound less harsh. “I don’t make a habit of talking about my personal life with the students, Kitty. I don’t think I want to start now.”
“I’m not just being nosy.” Her cheeks reddened. “It’s just that... don’t do it. Please, Mr. Summers. There’s stuff about her you don’t know. She’s not what you think.” She turned quickly, approaching the closed door.
“Kitty!” he called, but she was gone.
Charles Xavier and Ororo Monroe were having tea in the professor’s office. Sitting by the fireplace, they had been discussing the maintenance of the grounds and enjoying the warmth of the fire and the relative calm and quiet, far away from the school hubbub.
“Are you glad to have Logan back?” Professor Xavier asked. “Or were you enjoying teaching his self-defense classes?”
“I’m very happy to have him back. I prefer teaching history. I also found that he is a difficult man to substitute for.”
“Why is that?”
“No lesson plans, no notes. Logan left me nothing to help me step in. The students were all pretty closed-mouthed, too, about what they’d been doing in his classes, although my impression is that my version was quite tame compared to Logan’s. In fact, when I asked the students what kinds of exercises Logan had been doing with them, the most common response was ‘you don’t want to know’.”
Charles chuckled at that. “He’s certainly one of a kind.”
“I’m glad he joined the team,” Ororo said, simply.
“I am, too. For all his rough manner and peculiarities, Logan’s a dedicated teacher. And an invaluable X-Man.” He took a sip of his tea. “I relied on him to secure the house in Peru, and it sounds like he accomplished that mission admirably. And I’m glad he’s back now.”
Storm nodded in agreement. “I’m missing Jean, though. I realize we need to have someone up there, and I think it’s a good assignment for her, but I wonder how that is for her when she was just getting resettled here.” Xavier didn’t reply. “I’m worried about her. She’s not feeling... accepted. It has been hard for her coming back. Have you noticed how changed she is?”
“Certainly the Jean Grey I knew for so long was a very different woman.”
“Yes, the trauma has left its mark, Charles. And something happened to her while she was imprisoned, to her powers. I think the confinement, her inability to use anything *but* her mind, focused and intensified her psionic gifts. She can do things she never could before. She’s not comfortable yet with that, I think. A little overwhelmed. But it’s not just that. I think many of the team – and the students – are uncomfortable with Jean. They don’t know what to expect of her. I think that’s mostly a necessary consequence of her imprisonment and of all of us believing she was dead. It almost feels as if she is back from the dead.”
“What do you think we ought to do, Ororo?”
“I think you’re doing everything you can. I’m sure Jean appreciates your support, and your practical help. Jean needs time, and patience, and understanding. You’re giving her all of those. We all are. And I thought it was brilliant of you to send her to Vermont, where Ethan Leeds can work with her. She has often spoken to me about how important her time in therapy with him was. She felt he really saved her life.”
“For some mutants, that period of coming into one’s powers can be profoundly traumatic. I’ve found it is often hardest on those with psionic powers. Some manage through denial until they are ready to face what’s happening.”
“Yes, I’ve seen that, too. Denial doesn’t fit Jean’s personality, though.”
Charles nodded in agreement. “Jean Grey was never one for self-deception.” He thought a little more about what Storm had said. “Has Jean talked to you about Ethan recently? Since her return?”
“No, and actually I was surprised, since she did broach the idea of therapy. And she said she found the prospect of finding a new therapist daunting. I thought of mentioning the Vermont project to her then, since it would make it easy to work with Dr. Leeds, but I didn’t want her to think that I was suggesting she should leave us.” She paused in thought, before continuing. “I meant Jean used to mention him from time to time before her imprisonment. Particularly when we’d have students who were having trouble accepting their powers and their mutant status. She often spoke of Dr. Leeds and wished he were still close by, so she could refer our students to him. But, anyway, I do think it’s good she’ll be in Vermont for a while, although I’m missing her and worried, a little, about how she’ll fare there. Well, Dr. Leeds will be a help to her, I’m sure.”
“He knew Jean very well at one point. And he’s a very skillful therapist. Ethan’s worked with trauma victims often.”
“That’s good. She is definitely in need of some help. Although I don’t know how much is the trauma and how much is other issues... Charles, I’m worried about Scott and Jean. I don’t know that they’re going to be able to make their relationship work.”
“It’s for them to decide, Ororo.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Did something happen that leads you to think they won’t reconcile?”
“No, not really. I worry that she doesn’t love him anymore. Not the way she did. She says she wants to get back together with him, but there’s something about how she says it.”
“Relationships change. ‘All true love must die, alter at the best into some lesser thing.’ No?”
“What a cynical view!”
“It’s not the whole poem,” he said, smiling ironically. “Still, I think there’s some truth to it. I don’t know what will happen with Scott and...Jean. They were together a long time, but things have changed.” He paused, then asked, “What do you think is different about Jean’s feelings for Scott now?”
“It sounds as if she’s trying to love him, not loving him. I think Jean’s in love with Logan.”
“She doesn’t talk about him. Well, not much. But I’ve seen them together and there’s something about the way they look at each other. Have you noticed? You know he came back here for her. I’m quite sure of that. I worry that there’s something happening between Jean and Logan. And I wonder what it will do to Scott – and the rest of the team – if she leaves Scott for him.”
“God that was good.” Logan stayed on Scott and in him for a minute, the side of his face pressed against Scott’s back. Then he kissed the back of Scott’s neck briefly, and rolled off of him. Lying on his back, he sighed happily, big grin lighting up his face in the semi-dark room.
Scott remained prone, but threw an arm over Logan’s chest. “As good as Jean?” he asked.
Logan’s smile vanished. He sat up, pushing Scott’s arm off of him in the process. “What is it with you two? You got some weirdo competition thing going or something?”
“For a smart guy, you say some really stupid shit.”
“I said I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Well, you did. Just like she did. Pissed me off then, too.”
“She asked you that?”
“Yeah. ‘Am I better than Scott?’ What a stupid ass question.” Scott didn’t reply. “I did it with her once, I told you that. I’ve been fucking you every chance I get for over a year. Who do you think I’d rather do it with?”
“Is that what you told her?”
Logan shrugged, an angry scowl darkening his face. “Pretty much. I told her I didn’t want to do it with her again and I wasn’t gonna stop doing it with you. I figured she’s smart enough to know what that means. But I would’ve thought you were, too.”
“Charles? Mac Hudson here.”
“Hello, Mac. How is everything in the Frozen North?”
“Still frozen. How are you?”
“All is well here.”
“Charles, I’ll get straight to the point. I’m hearing some disturbing things from my people in Vermont.”
“That’s an alarming beginning. What is the problem?”
“Jean Grey. They’re quite convinced that she is a destabilizing influence on the MPP.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. Can you be more specific?”
“Unfortunately, Northstar and Sasquatch haven’t been all that specific. They sure are emphatic, though. They say that Angela Jenkins, who was pretty much calmed down over the security issues and making great progress in adapting to her new identity, is a nervous wreck since Jean arrived. The unflappable G-Men are also uneasy. Jean-Paul has said the most, but he’s still pretty vague. He says he finds Jean manipulative, disruptive, that she’s pitting the staff there against each other.”
“In what way?”
“I don’t know. Jean-Paul isn’t very clear on that point, but he says they were all getting along just fine until she showed up. He’s also worried about our MPP participant. He says that Angela is frightened of Jean and, given her gift for predicting disaster, he thinks this is significant. I don’t know what to make of it, Charles. They were never close – Jean and Northstar – but they always worked well together before this. He was clearly reluctant to talk, but once he started, Jean-Paul said a lot of strange things.”
“Well, the strangest is – he says he thinks the woman there is an imposter, that she isn’t really Jean.”
Scott knocked on the door to the room down the hall from his. Logan opened it without a word and stood aside. Scott walked in and looked around. He hadn’t been to Logan’s new quarters since Logan had moved in. The room was small and furnished very sparsely. A single bed stood against one wall, a wooden table and chair on the opposite wall. No bookshelf or dresser, but an open trunk filled haphazardly with clothes and other possessions stood at the foot of the bed. “Can I talk to you?” Scott asked, as Logan closed the door after him.
“Nobody’s stopping you,” Logan replied, sitting down on the bed.
Scott pulled the lone chair over by the bed and sat down. “Are you all moved in?” he asked. Logan shrugged. “Do you need anything? There’s plenty of spare furniture. I can get you whatever you want.” Logan said nothing. “You’re not making this any easier, you know.”
“What do you want, Cyclops?”
“I want to apologize. I hate being on bad terms with you.”
“You could’ve fooled me.”
“Well I thought of getting on my knees to abjectly beg for your forgiveness, but you might think I had something else in mind.” That, at least, made Logan laugh. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s none of my business who you have sex with. I was out of line to ask you about Jean. I shouldn’t have said anything. I won’t again.”
“So why did you?”
Scott took a deep breath. “I was jealous. I have been since you told me. Probably before that, even.”
“Who are you jealous of? That’s what I want to know. Her or me? Who you thinking about here?” Logan’s tone started out belligerent but ended up almost plaintive.
Scott answered him softly. “You. I’m thinking about you. This thing between us – it has mattered more to me than I wanted to admit. More than I thought it would. I’ve relied on you more and more as time has gone on.” Logan looked at him sidelong, but he continued. “I’ve been looking to you for a lot, Logan – friendship, sex, advice, a sounding board. When it looked like Jean was back... well, I worried you’d just been marking time with me. I was scared you’d drop me. And then when you told me you’d had sex with her... It hurt. It hurt a lot. And not just that. It scared me. It worried me. So, I was looking for some sort of reassurance, I guess. You were quite right - it was a stupid thing to ask. And, I realize now, a totally inappropriate one. I was jealous to think of you with anyone else.”
“Or her with somebody else?”
Scott shook his head. “No, that’s not it. It’s not what this is about for me. Look, I’m really, really sure that woman isn’t Jean. But if it were her, if she did come back, it would be the same. I meant what I told you – I loved her, but what we tried to have was a mistake. I understand that now. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I’m not turning back.”
Scott thought about how to explain himself for a moment, and then continued. “I was in love with Jean. That counted for something, but it wasn’t enough. Not enough to go against my own nature. I’m gay. I shouldn’t have tried to live otherwise, not even for Jean, not even for love. And, although I certainly remember her fondly and am enraged that that woman has convinced most of the school she’s really Jean, well, I’m not in love with Jean anymore. That part of my life is over.”
Scott swallowed hard, and said nothing for a long time. “I’m in love with you,” he added, finally.